I snapped the last plastic bin lid into place and sigh as I put the last of the magic away for the next eleven months. I take in the stark space now devoid of twinkle lights glowing and glittering nutcrackers standing watch on shelves and mantels. In the bareness, a fresh start feeling slowly emerges in the back corner of my brain.
I suddenly see a new way I can rearrange my living room furniture that hasn’t moved since I moved in 7 years ago. I log on to Shutterfly to order picture prints to update framed memories around my house. I pull out my favorite to-do tablets and the new calendar I purchased from my favorite local artist at her art studio four days ago. I find my favorite candle and felt-tipped markers and I set up the space to dream and think and be.
I have carved out this space for myself in each new year dreaming of the “new year, new me.” This year, instead, I walked myself through each month of 2023 looking at photos of me in my camera roll that I captured and moved them to a “2023 Year in Review” album. I thought of what I would say now to the face in February that was grieving her dad’s new cancer diagnosis. I cheered for the woman in July I saw acting like she was 22 again at the Taylor Swift concert. I admired the me from September hiking around Oregon on a self-made waterfall tour for finally checking the long-held wish off her bucket list.
I reflected on the best parts of the year, the hardest, and what I learned. I said a sweet and solemn goodbye to 2023 and welcomed in 2024. In doing so, an epiphany struck. I did not need to be a new me. I like, no love, me. I no longer need to aspire to a new and improved version of actual me. In reflecting on the year prior, I was satisfied with the woman whose journey I followed –feats and flaws equal.
Of course, I still set goals and to-do’s for myself for the upcoming year, but I stopped beating myself up for who I wasn’t. I reset my focus on who I am and released the should-be version of me made from comparisons and criticism. I wish it hadn’t taken me 48 new years to figure this out. I regret I hadn’t been this gentle and loving with myself the year I divorced. I, again, stop the beating myself up part and find gratitude for the gift of this learning coming now. I resolutely smile and say – “new year, same me.”
(Author pictured a year ago – January, 2023)